Florida Geological Survey Begins Sinkhole Vulnerability Study Following Stakeholder Meeting

The Florida Geological Survey started its work on the Sinkhole Vulnerability Mapping Project after they hosted a meeting for stakeholders on Nov. 6, in Live Oak. Following the meeting, field work commenced with documenting multiple sinkholes on private landowner’s property in the pilot study area of Suwannee, Columbia and Hamilton counties. The data will be part of Geologic Information System data that will be compiled and processed in the study.

Supported by a $1.08 million federal grant, the Florida Geological Survey will combine the data layers they explore with other known sinkhole locations and use mathematical, spatial and statistical associations to predict the vulnerability of different areas. The study will use a data-driven modeling method called “Weights of Evidence” to determine this relative vulnerability and remove any bias in existing data.

The project is a three year study that will produce two maps: one in the pilot area and the other statewide. The pilot study is slated to end in May 2014, at which point the statewide assessment will begin.

“It is important to understand the geological character of the ground below us and this project will provide a map of the relative vulnerability to sinkhole formation in Florida as an important hazard mitigation planning tool.” said Dr. Jon Arthur, Director of Florida Geological Survey.  “There is a national interest in our innovative approach to this project, and we are excited to begin the work of developing input data layers for the model.”

Dr. Arthur spoke to the National Academy of Sciences Board on Earth Sciences and Resources’ Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering in Washington, DC on Nov. 14. He presented information on Florida sinkholes and this project to the committee as they consider national perspectives on science and policies related to sinkholes.

 The purpose of this project is to provide the Florida Department of Emergency Management with a map to assist in creating more efficient hazard mitigation strategies. Working in conjunction with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency – funded study could reduce loss of life and property as the result of a sinkhole.

The stakeholders meeting provided public officials in Suwannee, Columbia and Hamilton counties with information regarding sinkholes and explained the overview of the project being conducted. The contract year date for the pilot study is slated for the end of May 2014. The next meeting to inform the public officials on the status of the project will occur in March 2014.

More information on the vulnerability study can be found here. For more information regarding sinkholes please visit the Florida Geological Survey Website.

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